I suppose most people's idea of how to spend Valentine's Day involves candlelit dinner and flowers, which may explain the less-than-full attendance last night at local experimental venue Issue Project Room. Which is a shame, because they missed a mesmerizing performance by Czech songstress Iva Bittová that captured the true spirit of the holiday, in a way no tableside violinist ever could.
As if making a nod to that stale tradition, Bittová paraded up and down the aisle with her own violin. But, instead of playing heart-rending romances, all sorts of creepy, unearthly sounds flowed from her instrument. Her passionate vocals - most of which weren't in English, or any recognizable language - fell somewhere between Meredith Monk-type shrieks and the traditional Moravian melodies of her homeland; often, she sounded like a flock of birds, ululating and cooing with varying degrees of intensity. Clearly, she was channeling something well beyond herself, becoming a medium for the wild and untameable symphony of nature.
Later in the set, she was joined by her gangly son Antonin (Tony) who, at 18, is already an accomplished musician in his own right. He played a jazzy piano improvisation ("Salzburg Butterfly"), and then accompanied his mother on several more songs, switching back and forth between piano and percussion.
They closed with a sad and strange version of "My Funny Valentine," which flirted with a cabaret-style before Bittová deliberately messed it up with vocal distortion and emotive gestures to give this holiday standard just the right kick:
"Is your mouth a little weakWhen you open it to speakAre you smart? But don't you change one hair for meNot if you care for meStay little valentine stayEach day is Valentines Day"